Invest: Miami speaks with Jeffrey Freimark, President and CEO

When people think of Miami-Dade, they tend to focus on the glitz and the glamour. But this community, like much of the rest of the nation, faces significant challenges when it comes to elder care. Moreover, rising cost of care in this space is exacerbated by the fact that South Florida is an epicenter of Medicare fraud. While many institutions, like ours, operate according to the highest ethical standards, we are all affected by the prevalence of fraud. When the federal government does their audits, we are included.

Costs are also rising because people are living longer, a reality that we as a country have not fully prepared for. The fastest growing demographic in this country percentage wise is the 85 and up age group. The average age of a patient in our custodial living facility has increased by 10 years over the last 15 years. People are living longer and they are outspending their savings.

These costs are placing a burden on our nation’s health care system. The vast majority of health care spending takes place as individuals are closing in on the end of life—in the last year or so. Americans are accustomed to pursuing every course of treat- ment available, and as caretakers we often hear, “We want everything done.” Those extra steps may add a little bit of time, but does it add more quality to life? A long-term strategy to mitigate rising costs must involve setting and defining expectations for families and loved ones, as well as for the medical community.

The elderly care sector will continue to see growth, particularly in the areas of Alzheimer’s, dementia and cognitive disorders. As a response, we will start to see the creation of “memory care villages”—facilities for folks with cognitive disorders, staffed by caregivers specially trained to work with this class of patients, who can address their medical and mental health needs, and provide a quality of life that is familiar for them. At Miami Jewish Health Systems, we are evolving our care model to one that is solely patient-centered, for more enriched lives.